A major breakthrough in cancer treatment occurred with the development of strategies that overcome T-cell tolerance toward tumor cells. These approaches enhance antitumor immunity by overcoming mechanisms that are normally in place to prevent autoimmunity but simultaneously prevent rejection of tumor cells. Although tolerance mechanisms that restrict antitumor immunity take place both in the thymus and periphery, only immunotherapies that target peripheral tolerance mechanisms occurring outside of the thymus are currently available. We review here recent gains in our understanding of how thymic tolerance mediated by the autoimmune regulator (Aire) impedes antitumor immunity. It is now clear that transient depletion of Aire-expressing cells in the thymus can be achieved with RANKL blockade. Finally, we discuss key findings that support the repurposing of anti-RANKL as a cancer immunotherapy with a unique mechanism of action.
©2019 American Association for Cancer Research.